Our Fellows in the Spotlight : Spencer Jolly

13 January 2022

Spencer Jolly conducts a research entitled "Structured Ultrafast Light Beams for fundamental science and applications in micromachining, particle acceleration, integrated photonics, and photo-chemistry" in the Photonique (OPERA-photonique) Research Centre under the supervision of Prof. Pascal Kockaert.



What is your project about and what are its objectives?

Our project StructULB is about studying structured ultrafast light beams in the context of a few different fundamental questions and applications. The project is both about basic optical physics and studying the interaction of light with matter. I hope to take the study of these type of light beams from a niche field to a more mature field, and to communicate the importance of these physical effects to other researchers who may benefit from the knowledge.


What is the expected impact of your project on society? According to you, how could you project contribute to society?

I must admit that the project is quite fundamental, especially the initial goals of the project. We hope to gain understanding about the basic ways that certain types of structured light propagate and interact with matter. After that however, we can imagine some applications to laser machining for example, which has an impact on manufacturing technology.


Why did you decide to apply to Cofund IF@ULB? How do you expect the experience will contribute to your personal and professional growth?

I had a desire to work with the photonics team at ULB, and especially to have some independence in my work. I expect that I will experience both the positives and negatives of being more independent – for example, I can choose the course of my project, but I also am more responsible when mistakes occur. After this project I hope to be ready to lead a project with a larger team and to be more confident in my decisions.


What are the achievements (both professional and personal) you are most proud of ?

I’m most proud of navigating the period around when my son was born, where I moved countries and had one year unemployed and outside of academic research. Being able to stay on top of progress in my field and to write a successful project proposal in that time gives me a better perspective now, both professionally and personally.


 Finally, what’s next for you?

For now, I want to make this project a success, and after 2023 we will see what happens! I hope to evolve towards securing grants also for research equipment, to mentor more young researchers, and to apply for permanent research positions within Belgium.



Spencer 's project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 801505.